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Turkey court lifts house arrest on United States consulate staffer

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Donald Trump Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Istanbul, Turkey Jun 25, 2019, 06.10 PM (IST)

A Turkish court on Tuesday lifted the house arrest of a US consulate staffer charged with terrorism offences, just days before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to meet US counterpart Donald Trump, an embassy official told AFP.

Mete Canturk is one of three consulate staffers arrested for links to a group accused of an attempted coup in 2016. 

Canturk, a Turkish citizen, still faces trial and is barred from leaving the country, with his next hearing set for October 2. 

US charge d'affaires Jeffrey Hovenier welcomed the decision to release him from house arrest.

"We continue to see no evidence to support the charges brought against him and we reiterate our call for this process as well as other processes involving our unjustly detained staff to be resolved quickly, transparently and fairly," said Hovenier.

Relations between Ankara and Washington have been strained over several issues, including Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile defence system and US support for a Kurdish militia in Syria.

Erdogan is due to meet Trump this week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. 

A Turkish-American former NASA scientist, Serkan Golge, detained in Turkey for nearly three years on similar terrorism charges, was released in May. 

Another Istanbul consulate staffer, Metin Topuz, who also faces espionage charges, is due back in court this week.

A third staffer, Hamza Ulucay, from the Adana consulate, has already been sentenced to 4.5 years for "aiding a terror organisation".

They are suspected of links to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for orchestrating the failed coup.